The Irrawaddy

Lawmaker Criticizes Military Action in Illegal Mining Areas

Internally displaced persons who fled to the border following clashes in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township. (Photo: Myo Min Soe /The Irrawaddy)

YANGON — Lower House lawmaker representing Kachin’s Tanai Township U Lin Lin Oo criticized a military crackdown on illegal gold and amber mines in the township during a parliamentary session on Thursday.

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation and the Kachin State government should take the lead in handling this problem. Military action is not at all the right approach,” U Lin Lin Oo told Parliament.

The lawmaker submitted a proposal to the Lower House urging the ministry and state government to properly handle illegal gold and amber mines in Tanai and Hpakant townships.

He quoted Article 37 of the 2008 military-drafted Constitution, stating that the Union is the ultimate owner of all lands and all natural resources above and below the ground, above and beneath the water and in the atmosphere in the Union.

“There is a need for the Union government to exercise this executive power vested by the Constitution to adopt a policy to prevent the loss of the country’s resources,” said U Lin Lin Oo.

Citizens and ethnic people have suffered unnecessarily from the consequences of a military crackdown on illegal mining in the area, he criticized.

Hundreds of gold and amber miners have fled the area and sought shelter in Tanai since clashes broke out between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in early June.

More than 100,000 people living in the area have also fled to Tanai, Hkamti in Sagaing Division, or to their hometowns.

Myanmar Army helicopters dropped leaflets in the second week of June, asking people in the mining areas to leave by June 15 or else be recognized as insurgents supporting the KIA. Then, it launched attacks. Military tensions between the two sides persist in the area.

U Tin Soe, Lower House lawmaker representing Hpakant Township, seconded U Lin Lin Oo, saying clashes have also affected Hpakant.

He said locals started mining illegally in the 2000s in Tanai and Hpakant, and since then, thousands of Kachin locals and other internal migrants have arrived to work in the area.

Besides miners, many people in the area earn their livelihoods through trading gold, driving taxis, and selling mining equipment, fuel, food, and consumer goods and more.

U Tin Soe said there were more than 500,000 people working in or near the amber mines in 2014.

In July of last year, the Myanmar Army conducted clearance operations in gold mines in two villages along Ledo Road in Hpakant Township, forcing workers to flee.

Parliament approved discussion of U Lin Lin Oo’s proposal.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.